Posted on January 14, 2022
The college football season has been put to bed and we know almost all of the players who are leaving early or coming back, and the coaching carousel has mostly closed.
Transfers are a new beast that will factor into the off-season national championship chase more than ever this year, but I think the power picture is pretty established for the Pac-12 for the next eight months of prognostication.
Here’s how I think the Pac-12 stacks up for 2022 now that the dust has settled on 2021.
For the first time in a while, there should be a very clear, unquestioned favorite heading into the Pac-12 football season.
Replacing superstar linebacker Devin Lloyd and a handful of other mainstays is going to be a challenge for the Utes, but they’ve replaced studs on defense better than anyone else in the Pac-12 under Kyle Whittingham.
And they have the Pac-12’s best DB returning in Clark Phillips III.
The stability of QB Cameron Rising at quarterback and the unexpected returns of running back Tavion Thomas and tight end Brant Kuithe are huge scores.
Mario Cristobal leaves a solid base of experience and talent in Eugene and Bo Nix or Ty Thompson should be good enough to make them the easy favorite to win the North again.
The offensive line and the interior of their defense will be the strength, led by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year front runner LB Noah Sewell.
All of us offseason prognosticators are going to give Lincoln Riley and the transfer portal a lot of credit.
It helps that the rest of the Pac-12 after Oregon and Utah are all super questionable.
There’s talent at USC comparable to Oregon and Utah on the USC roster, but it’s not even where it was maybe two years ago with elite players.
Still should be enough to rise above the middling midsection of the conference though.
4. Oregon State
We hit a block of teams now that I feel are pretty interchangeable.
The Beavers have a nice foundation under Jonathan Smith, which sets them apart from a lot of the Pac-12 and they should have a good offensive line and running game again and returning QB Chance Nolan.
They will likely sink or swim with their defense, which has a secondary filled returning honorable mention All-Pac-12 selections.
5. Arizona State
The Sun Devils lose a ton, especially on the offensive line and on defense overall.
It seems like Herm Edwards will weather the storm of their COVID scandal and we get another year of hoping that Jayden Daniels can turn the corner at QB.
And that’s enough to put them here for now.
UCLA also has a ton of questions and loses a ton of talent and experience across the board.
Getting Dorian Thompson-Robinson back at QB gives them some reliability at quarterback.
It seems like Chip Kelly has the program to where they should at least be okay, provided he remains the coach, as recent reports suggest he will.
7. Washington State
The Cougars made a major offseason move in getting QB Cameron Ward to transfer in.
Like a lot of Pac-12 teams, they lose a lot of talent and experience.
Jake Dickert is going to have to rebuild a bit.
Watch for the Huskies to slide up to number four.
They don’t lose talent and experience the way the teams ahead of them do, and lost a lot of close games in 2021.
It all depends on if new coach Kalen Deboer can turn things around quickly and what kind of play they get at quarterback.
Also, watch for Cal to climb this group.
Justin Wilcox is a proven consistent commodity, and that stability could give them a nice base for 2022 while a lot of the conference is rebuilding or starting over.
Replacing Chase Garbers will be the key as the Bears may have found the answer in Purdue transfer QB Jack Plummer.
However, they still need to fill a lot of spots with their best players graduating.
Yet again, Stanford is a hard team to peg.
They’re another year away from their prime years under David Shaw and they have some talent and a QB I like in Tanner McKee.
But I’m banking absolutely nothing on them at all.
There’s positive momentum with Jedd Fisch at Arizona.
Will it show up on the field in 2022? We’ll see.
I will at least give them a slight edge over Colorado for now.
I think the Wildcats and Buffs are essentially even.
I’m just giving the Wildcats the slight edge because of their overall program trajectory right now.